Friday, 5 November 2010

The Glass Top Coffin

Sometimes depression hits hard.

Especially when I'm working on my art.

Making art is dealing with constant failure, in fact a fever pitch of riding the edge of ambition and failure is required to maintain "the groove." On one side lies the rut, on the other, the wave. This conflict can be a form of terrorism, or self torture.

I think depression can be its own tool, but it is very very difficult to capture, and when it is captured, it will eat away at itself, depression will gnaw its own foot off to get free. Never doubt this.

When depression hits I try to go outside myself. I can't go to any "feel good" places. They seem hollow or too precious to relate to where I am. A therapist would tell me that "depression is anger turned inward." And as one of my favorite lyrics says, "Anger is an energy" (PIL). So how to turn this energy INTO energy? Because depression feels like the opposite of energy. It feels debilitating or threatening. It feels ending.

Believe it or not, exercise is one of the only thing that makes me feel better. Your mind is part of your body, and so pressing the body into movement helps move the mind out of the darkest places, and pushing your mind into your body which moves into another plane of pleasure and pain. There is no space for depression in the body. If you're dealing with depression and haven't tried exercising, please try it, just for a week.

The other thing I turn to is music. And so having said all that, I would like to share with you an extremely special recording... this cheers me up when I'm down.

RAMASES was once visited by his namesake, the Egyptian god, while parking his car as a central heating salesman named Martin Raphael. He began recording some singles with his wife, Sel but not many paid much attention. He shopped around for a label, but few would take him seriously.

He first scored a deal with Columbia records (no small feat!) and released a 45 that is now possibly worth more than your entire record collection. The single failed, and they retried only to fail each time.

Ramases then scraped up enough interest to record an album from prog label Vertigo. It was called Space Hymns in 1970 with the musicians that were on the precipice of forming 10cc (don't worry, it sounds nothing like 10cc). This album failed to enter any charts, but Ramases and Sel were tenacious. There is no telling what they were up to in the four years between these two albums, but one can only hope it was cosmic.

His next album is what I am giving to you. Glass Top Coffin. It rests somewhere between folky ballads, Moody Blues-styled AM gold, and proggy occult/space narration. Every song has full orchestration... by members of the Royal Philharmonic and London Symphony Orchestra no less!

It is beautiful, melancholy, spacey, uplifting, familiar and strange. I hope you will enjoy!

It has been out of print for decades, but was recently reissued by Esoteric Recordings, whose catalog of prog (and psych and so much more) is staggering. Check it out if you want something weird and heavy.

I guess I feel kinship with this music, in its failure and beauty. It was never popular, it never will be, but exists somewhere in this universe and that alone gives me hope. It keeps me balanced on the precipice and pushes me in places I would not normally go... but I'm glad I went.

I'm sorry to end on a sad note, but it must be said that Ramases comitted suicide three years after this was released. But eventually we will all pass. I am glad that his art exists, and will continue to grant hope in a world that often feels hopeless.

If I had a glass top coffin,
I would see my friends all around,
I would see their faces by my graveside
I would see the smile in their frowns


RyGar said...

I really appreciated this post. I, too have been punched in the chest by depression. For years. Medication seems sketchy to me. Exercise turned out to be key. I ride a bicycle with some headphones on and that festering cloud of gloom can't keep up.I'll definitely check out this music. Thanks.

Ambassador MAGMA said...

Yes, music and movement are the best remedies I've found. It is weird how much affect it has...

I miss riding my bike. I used to ride it everywhere but the streets of New York are too scary for me.

Hope you enjoy, and if you want more of Ramases astrofolk weirdness, check out Space Hymns here:

it's a little less polished and a little more weird. Depending on your taste, better or worse than Glass Top Coffin.

Thanks for checking it out!

KickinAssTakingNames said...

Hiya, new lurker here. This is a beautifully written post. A few random thoughts that came to mind while reading it: Being in the mental health field, I would never say that depression is always a result of internalized anger. Second, it does seem you have found a "feel good place" in the form of exercise, which is always great for depression because it forces a body/mind connection, and also causes biological changes that improve mood (as you probably know). It also sounds like music is a feel good place for you, so there you have it - you do have places to turn to. You might think your art creates depression at times, but I don't interpret it that way. Your art is likely your way of expressing feelings, which means you are processing them, which of course is hard and can involve feeling crappy before you feel better. I see that as constructive in the long run, so keep doing it. My creative friends all struggle with what you referred to as 'constant failure', as unfortunately when one creates art, it is ultimately up for judgment by others, and any rejection always sucks. Focus on pleasing yourself, because no art is going to please everyone's taste. Lastly, I am intrigued by this Ramases fellow and plan on checking the music out.

Sorry this was so long. If you take anything from my psychobabble, I hope it is that you are doing all the right things.

Thanks for checking it out!

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